Valaichenai Factory and paper making industry


It is heartening to note that action is being taken to resurrect the Valaichenai Paper Factory. I had the occasion to see paper being made, when I used the circuit bungalow there. While travelling to Batticaloa, in 2019, I drove up to the closed gates of the factory, thinking what a loss it was. The government deserves praise for its decision to reopen the factory.

In its heyday, it received truckloads of straw from Hingurakgoda and Polonnaruwa for manufacturing paper.

I have highlighted, in my books, that papermaking is an area where we can easily succeed. I have suggested that a few small-scale papermaking machines should be imported and set up in our colonies. This is an easily achievable goal and we can produce paper with straw of the Yala 2020 paddy crop.  Investment in the machinery, etc., can easily be recouped, within the first two years. We will be able to save a lot of foreign exchange.

Papermaking needs the short fibre in the straw, to be mixed with the long fibre. Earlier, paper pulp was imported and mixed with the straw. I suggest that immediate action be taken to collect all the waste paper, from government offices, make them into pulp, in Colombo, and feed the pulp to Valaichenai.

Sri Lanka is the only country, in the world, that does not make paper out of waste paper. In Bangladesh, I saw some youth collect cardboard meal boxes after training sessions on my self-employment programme. Discarded paper and cardboard are used for papermaking in that country. Today, we export waste paper to India and import paper and cardboard. This is what neoliberal economics introduced in 1978 have done to us.

 In fact, under the Divisional Development Programme, of 1970 – 1977, the Divisional Secretary, at Kotmale, set up a small industry making paper out of waste paper.  That was a great success.  The key player, in that, was the Divisional Secretary at Kotmale. I am sorry I do not know his name. If he is found, he should be put in charge of setting up a few papermaking Industries.

Many thanks to the engineers, labouring to make Valaichenai a success, and to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. It is hoped they will also immediately take my proposal to import a few small-scale papermaking machines, and set them up in the colonies. This can easily be done and we will save on the foreign exchange being used to import paper.

I wonder what is happening to the Industrial Development Board, the prime institute, established by Minister Philip Gunawardena to help industrialize this country. My only contact with them was when I was Government Agent, at Matara, when the Ministry of Plan Implementation sought their approval for my proposals to set up industries in Matara. Instead of helping the Government Agents, they placed hurdles in our path. They disapproved of my suggestion, to set up a Watercolour Paint Box Industry on the grounds that none of the ingredients that went into the manufacture were made in Matara. I had to remind them that if Japan could buy the cotton from Egypt, make textiles and sell the textiles back to people in Egypt, we too should be able to make watercolour paint boxes, collecting the raw materials from wherever, provided we made a profit, and found employment for our youth.

At that time, we imported 95% of our watercolour paint boxes.  I had to ignore them, in establishing my Crayon Factory - making crayons was a great success and it was the showpiece of the Divisional Development Programme. It was so much of a success, being run as Coop Crayon by Sumanapala Dahanayake, the MP for Deniyaya, in his capacity as the President of the Coop Union, which made President Jayewardena send a special investigation unit, under A T Ariyaratne, Deputy Director of Cooperatives, to audit and find fault with Sumanapala.  They found it a thriving industry, and all books in order.


Author of: How the IMF Sabotaged Third World Development (Kindle/Godages) 2017

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